Late last month, we dispatched a reporter to a popular gathering place in Clayton; her assignment was to learn what voters were thinking about the upcoming town election. But she came back empty handed because, as it turns out, voters aren’t thinking at all about the town election, at least not yet.
We conveyed our findings to a friend in town government who lamented the apparent voter apathy.
But it’s possible that voters are apathetic because they are satisfied. People who live in small towns don’t want all that much from town government. They want police, fire and rescue to come when called; in public power towns, they want the lights to come on, and residents of all towns want their toilets to flush and their faucets to provide water. They’d like potholes repaired in a timely fashion, and they like town-run recreation programs but can find sports leagues elsewhere.
If they’re satisfied with their town, voters don’t feel guilty about devoting their time and attention to more pressing matters – work, family and church, to name just three.
Besides, our state and national governments command all of the attention, with Obamacare, government shutdowns, national debt, cyber spying on citizens, voter ID, education funding, tax reform and so on.
But it would be wrong to downplay the significance of town government or to ignore it at the polls. Most notably, town governments spend a lot of money, with almost all of that money coming from the people who live in the town. Clayton, for example, spends about $38 million annually, and the average household pays more than $3,000 annually in taxes and utilities.
Our local government leaders also make important decisions that affect our lives. For starters, they set the rates that determine how much we pay in taxes and utilities. Beyond that, they decide which streets to pave and when, what types of homes and businesses we can build and where. They also decide how much – or how little – to spend on police protection, fire protection, parks and recreation.
In short, our elected leaders determine our local tax burden and help determine our quality of life. We’d say that’s reason enough to vote on Nov. 5.